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Fire safety responsibility

Autumn 2006 Taking Account

New fire safety rules for business and other non-domestic premises came into force on 1 October 2006, replacing 70 separate pieces of legislation. The Fire Safety Order applies to England and Wales; Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own rules.

The Order abolished fire certificates. Responsibility for compliance will rest with the 'responsible person' for each premises. In a workplace this is the employer. Anyone else who has control of premises, such as an occupier, owner or managing agent, is also a responsible person. Where there is more than one responsible person, they must work together.

The responsible person must carry out a fire risk assessment. This must focus on ensuring that everyone on or near the premises can escape safely in the event of fire and should pay particular attention to people at special risk such as those with disabilities.

The aim is to identify risks that can be removed or reduced and then decide on what fire precautions are needed. Organisations that employ five or more people must record the main findings of the assessment, the action to be taken and individuals at special risk.

The government has produced a series of guides to help people responsible for premises to comply with the new rules and carry out a risk assessment, although larger or more complex premises should be assessed professionally. You can download the guides from the Department for Communities and Local Government website by searching at www.communities.gov.uk.

Hilton Sharp & Clarke